Do Not Pick Wild Plants for Consumption


          The Department of Food Safety of Municipal Affairs Bureau appeals to the public not to pick wild plants for consumption, since many of them look like edible plants and it is difficult to differentiate them from the edible ones. Some wild plants and mushrooms contain virulent toxins while vegetation found along roadside and in flower beds is often treated with insecticide. Mistaken consumption of these plants could lead to poisoning and cause health hazard. For safety purpose, members of public are reminded not to pick plants and mushrooms growing in the wild or those found along roadside and in flower beds for consumption.   


Health hazards of wild plants

It is difficult to determine whether a wild plant is toxic or not just by the look of it. Some mushrooms and taros growing in the wild contain virulent toxins that cannot be destroyed by cooking or removed by freezing and other food processing treatments. Even a small intake of these wild plants could result in severe poisoning.


Toxic wild plants often eaten mistakenly

Atropa belladonna

Atropa belladonna (also known as deadly nightshade) looks like edible cherry tomatoes and every part of it contains toxins (mainly hyoscyamine). Excessive consumption of Atropa belladonna leads to poisoning with symptoms including delirium, hallucinations, seizure, diarrhea and vomiting, etc. 


Alocasia macrorrhizos               

Alocasia macrorrhizos (also known as giant alocasia) looks very much like edible taros. Every part of it contains toxins, namely calcium oxalate raphides and sapotoxin. Consumption of Alocasia macrorrhizos causes injury to skin and mucous membranes, swelling of tongue or lips, numbness and burning sensation over the tongue, oral cavity and lips. The sapotoxin causes gastroenteritis and paralyzes the central nervous system. 


Gelsemium elegans

Gelsemium elegans looks very much like the edible Radix Fici Simplicissimae. Every part of it contains toxin (gelsemine) with high concentration in the roots. Consumption of it causes poisoning that would paralyze the peripheral motor nerves, suppress breathing and the central nervous system. Common symptoms are blurred vision, diplopia, dizziness and numbness of the lips and tongue. Severe cases can be fatal. 


Advice for the public

1.     Since it is difficult to determine whether a wild plant is toxic or not just by the look of it, one should not pick plants growing in the wild or those found along roadside and in flower beds for consumption.

2.     Buy vegetables from the marketplace, licensed vendors and shops. Do not buy vegetables from unknown sources.

3.     Remove the outer leaves and rhizomes of vegetables which are not suitable for eating. Then, wash them properly under clean running water and soak them in water for some time before cooking.

4.     Should there be doubts about the safety of the food products, do not buy or consume them.

5.     In case of feeling unwell after food consumption, seek immediate medical attention and bring along the remnant, if available.